Rates of FASD in South Africa are considered the highest in the world

Alcohol misuse and abuse is a major concern in South Africa. Numerous reports over the past few years have documented how alcohol misuse is intertwined with HIV/AIDS, poverty, history of apartheid/racism, and domestic violence. Levels of FASD are among the highest in the world, especially in the Northern Cape and Western Cape.

Last fall, the government reported initiatives to address the ongoing concerns with alcohol misuse. Some of the discussions that are occurring relate to changes in alcohol advertising and examining the possible effects of bans on Sunday sales of alcohol.

However, these initiatives alone are unlikely to be effective without fully considering the social and historical context of alcohol use in the country. Traditionally, alcohol was used as a means of payment and a way of strengthening friendship; beer was also associated with manhood and strengthening of the body. A traditional drinking culture appears to have been replaced by multiple drinking cultures that vary from one community to the other. Migration, urbanization, changes in women’s roles in society (e.g., increasing acceptability of binge drinking and other “male” ways of consuming alcohol), and the replacement of home-brewed beverages with drinks containing higher levels of alcohol are some of the factors driving these shifts. The high rate of alcohol consumption in the Western Cape can be traced back to the ‘dop’ system during apartheid where wine was distributed daily to workers on wine farms as part payment for labour.

Last spring, several web sites posted images from this print ad campaign by the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA). The three ads show provocative images to get viewers to consider the possible long-term and hidden effects of alcohol use during pregnancy.

Drinking during pregnancy can take years to affect your baby. 60% of children born with foetal alcohol syndrome will grow up to engage in criminal activity. Do the right thing for child’s sake. Don’t drink during pregnancy.

Drinking during pregnancy can take years to affect your baby. 50% of children born with foetal alcohol syndrome will grow up to engage in risky sexual behaviour. Do the right thing for child’s sake. Don’t drink during pregnancy.


Drinking during pregnancy can take years to affect your baby. 35% of children born with foetal alcohol syndrome will grow up to abuse drugs and alcohol. Do the right thing for child’s sake. Don’t drink during pregnancy.

References:

Minister draws the line on alcohol abuse: Motsoaledi’s proposal includes ban on advertising and Sunday sales (Times Live, Oct 31, 2010)

O’Connor, M.J., Tomlinson, M., LeRoux, I.M., Stewart, J., Greco, E., Rotheram-Borus, M.J. (2011). Predictors of alcohol use prior to pregnancy recognition among township women in Cape Town, South Africa. Social Science and Medicine, 72: 83-90.

Petersen, I., Schwartz, L., Bhana, A., Flisher, A.J. (2010). Mental health promotion initiatives for children and youth in contexts of poverty: the case of South Africa. Health Promotion International, 25(3): 331-342.

Setlalentoa, BMP, Pisa, PT, Thekisho, G.N., Ryke, E.H., Loots Du, T. (2010). The social aspects of alcohol misuse/abuse in South Africa. South Africa Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 23(3) (Supplement 1): S11-S15.